Arts & Sciences, Education

Teaching Enhancement Award project eases math burden for first-year student

When Ashley Herrera-Mendoza enrolled as a freshman in the College of Business Administration, she had an inkling that she might need additional support when it came to the advanced math courses required for her degree.

Knowing that Herrera-Mendoza was just one of many students struggling with the transition from high school to college level mathematics, a team of faculty from the College of Education, the Klingler College of Arts and Sciences and the Educational Opportunity Program redesigned a developmental math course for incoming students.

The specialized math class was made possible through the Way Klingler Teaching Enhancement Award, an annual award given to a team of two or more faculty members to develop, implement and evaluate a specific teaching project. One award of up to $20,000 is given to the selected project team for one fiscal year.

“The course was designed to support first-year students in their transition to college-level calculus,” says Dr. Leigh van den Kieboom, associate dean in the College of Education. “The class includes contextualized activities that engage students in real-world applications of the precalculus and calculus concept.”

The six-credit, one-semester class allowed for more than just three additional math credits —  class sizes were kept small to provide opportunities for group work, and students received one-on-one support from instructor Cheryl Brenner.

“I have been able to reach students where they are,” Brenner says. “This class affords me the time to develop relationships with my students, which in turn allows me to support strategies in ways not typically found in entry level college math courses.”

It allowed Herrera-Mendoza to thoroughly understand difficult concepts. Taking advantage of ample in-class time made it possible to work through problems and ask questions, instead of just memorizing content.

“The homework was well distributed, which alleviated my stress,” Herrera-Mendoza recalls. “The math class was prominent in ensuring that I knew what I was doing. Ms. Brenner gave us several opportunities to ask for help.”

During the fall of 2022, 92% of the students who took the course received an A or B.

Van den Kieboom believes that the promise of this course lies not only in its format, but also in its pedagogical approach to teaching and willingness to address the whole student.

“This initiative embodies Marquette’s commitment to preparing its students for success from the second they step on campus,” Provost Kimo Ah Yun says. “Marquette is fortunate to have this committed team of educators, and I’m delighted that they have been recognized with a Teaching Enhancement Award.”

Brenner says when it comes to the course’s success, she has a personal philosophy: “I have found the best indication of success to be the number of genuine ‘thank-yous’ I have gotten from my students.”

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